The Causes & Diagnosis
Just because you’ve had a few restless nights does not mean you need to go running to your doctor. However, if you’re staring at the ceiling night after night and drag yourself through your days, then what are you waiting for?
Many people today are living a fast paced life and there are many causes to sleepless nights which doesn’t necessarily mean you have a sleeping disorder, you may be just going through a stressful time in your life. You could be in the middle of a divorce, kid failing in school, bills piling up, company relocating without you, college exams, 8 months pregnant — these are temporary and as soon as these issues are resolved, your sleep habits should go back to normal. This does not mean you have to ignore the sleeping problem. Poor quality sleep is a medical concern no matter what its cause or duration and your doctor can still offer several suggestions to help you sleep better.
Poor sleep presents itself in many ways; you fall asleep quickly but wake up in the middle of the night and pace the floor, or maybe you lie awake staring at the ceiling for hours, or you fall asleep fast but awake much earlier than you would like or even sleep totally fine but awaken unrefreshed? No matter how the problem presents itself, these are disruptions resulting in less-then-optimal sleep.
These are common factors for occasional sleeplessness:
- Battling nasal congestion
- Consuming caffeine, especially close to bedtime
- Exercising too vigorously close to bedtime
- Experiencing pain from arthritis, headaches, or illness
- Lying on an uncomfortable mattress and/or pillow
- Overindulging in rich or spicy foods, especially close to bedtime
- Sharing your bed with kids, pets or spouse that toss and turn a lot
- Sleeping in a cluttered room
- Environment is too cold or too hot
- Smoking and/or drinking alcohol close to bedtime
- Stressful life event
- Taking stimulating herbal supplements
If you start dreading bedtime, find yourself nodding off time and again during the day or if you wake up repeatedly during the night, then that may be a clue you’re heading towards chronic status. Chronic sleeplessness can also be caused by a variety of problem but if just changing your sleep environment or cutting back on caffeine doesn’t solve the issue, chances are you have an undiagnosed sleep disorder.
It’s time to see a doctor if:
- Your sleeplessness is starting to interfere with your job performance
- You feel sluggish, irritable and less sharp than normal
- You’re making lots of mistakes or errors in judgment
- You can’t stay focused; your attention keeps wandering
- You’re impatient and quick to anger even though this is not normal personality behavior
- You keep dozing off, even in important meetings or while driving
Chronic sleeplessness can be associated with a host of physical, emotional and mental conditions including:
- Congestive heart failure and heart attacks
- Decreased ability to process information
- High blood pressure
- Insulin resistance
- Memory impairment, moodiness and irritability
- Increase risk of accidents and on-the-job injuries
As you can see, many consequences of chronic sleep deprivation or disruption are quite serious, and some, if left untreated, can even be fatal. If you have one or more of these symptoms, and especially if you have several, it may be time to get a check-up and see what’s causing your sleep disturbance. After you have your diagnosis and are receiving proper treatment and sleeping well again, your world will look like a different and better place.